Welcome back to the 2nd blog in our series looking into Acupuncture for Back Pain. In case you missed it, in our last blog we took a look at the 10 most common causes of Back Pain.
In this blog, we will look into how Acupuncture can be used to great effect to alleviate and reduce the severity of pains in the back, as well as helping to prevent future similar pains and issues.
What Is Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy based on the idea of the energetics in the body.
Acupuncture treatment consists of inserting needles into the skin at various key pressure points on the body – these needles are not meant to cause pain, harm, or discomfort, but instead their main aim is to energise or agitate certain key pressure points, thereby removing pain from other parts of the body.
Professional acupuncturists, such as those in Zing True Health Clinic, will target energy points for treatment, known as “meridians”, with some being of particular benefit to the nerves and muscles in the back.
Acupuncture is most beneficial over multiple sessions, although it is extremely common to find extreme relief from pain after just a single session.
Understanding Back Pain
Back pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages and is one of the most common reasons for medical consultations.
It is estimated that up to 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Understanding the different types and causes of back pain is crucial in determining the most effective treatment options.
Types of Back Pain
- Acute back pain: sudden onset of pain that typically lasts for a few days to a few weeks.
- Chronic back pain: persistent pain that lasts for 12 weeks or longer.
- Radicular pain: pain that radiates along the path of a nerve that has been irritated or compressed.
- Non-specific back pain: pain that is not attributed to a specific underlying condition.
Causes of Back Pain
- Muscle or ligament strain: caused by overuse or improper use of the back muscles.
- Bulging or ruptured disks: when the soft material inside a disk bulges or ruptures and presses on a nerve.
- Arthritis: inflammation of the joints in the spine.
- Osteoporosis: a condition where bones become weak and brittle, which can lead to fractures in the spine.
- Spinal stenosis: a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.
- Skeletal irregularities: abnormal curvature of the spine, such as scoliosis.
Common Treatments for Back Pain
- Medications: over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications.
- Physical therapy: exercises to improve strength and flexibility.
- Chiropractic care: manipulation of the spine to improve alignment and alleviate pain.
- Surgery: reserved for severe cases or when conservative treatments are unsuccessful.
Understanding the underlying cause of back pain is essential for determining the most effective treatment plan.
In cases where traditional treatments have been ineffective, acupuncture can provide a natural and safe alternative for managing back pain.
Evidence Supporting Acupuncture for Back Pain
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body.
It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including back pain. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the use of acupuncture for managing back pain.
Numerous clinical studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain.
For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed coverage of acupuncture for chronic low back pain for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or approved by CMS.
Mechanisms of Action
The mechanisms by which acupuncture works to alleviate back pain are not yet fully understood.
However, it is believed that acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing processes by promoting the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers.
Acupuncture may also help to reduce inflammation and improve circulation in the affected area.
Based on the available evidence, several professional organizations now recommend acupuncture as a treatment option for back pain.
For example, the American College of Physicians recommends that physicians consider acupuncture as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.
“For patients with chronic low back pain, ACP recommends that physicians and patients initially select non-drug therapy with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise (MCE), progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation.“
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a trained and licensed practitioner. The risk of side effects is low, but may include minor bruising, soreness, or bleeding at the site of the needle insertion. Serious complications are rare.
In summary, the evidence supports the use of acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment option for back pain. However, it is important to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before undergoing any new treatment to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for individual needs.
How Acupuncture Helps Back Pain
There are several key meridian points in the body, the stimulation of which will specifically aid in the removal of back pain.
For example, some key acupuncture points for lower back pain include the back of the knees, the feet, lower back, hands, hips and stomach. Upper back points are usually different and include the head, neck and shoulders.
By stimulating these points, other parts of the nervous system will also be stimulated and remove pain.
Acupuncture therapy helps to release opioid-like chemicals which the body naturally produces, therefore relieving pain.
Acupuncture can also act as an on/off switch for various nerve endings – the stimulation of which can have the effect of “shutting off” pain.
Research carried out in 2012 involved testing 20,000 patients with chronic pain. They were given a combination of authentic acupuncture treatments, fake treatments, or no treatment at all, and those who received real acupuncture experienced up to 50% improvement in their chronic pain issues.
While acupuncture is not an out-and-out cure for back pain, it is long proven to be very effective at relieving pain, usually to a greater extent than painkillers or other medication.
What to Expect During an Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture is a therapeutic practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body.
For those who have never received acupuncture before, it can be helpful to know what to expect during a typical treatment session.
The acupuncturist will begin by asking the patient about their medical history, any current symptoms or concerns, and any medications they are taking.
This information will help the acupuncturist determine which acupuncture points to target during the treatment.
After the initial consultation, the patient will be asked to lie down on a comfortable treatment table.
The acupuncturist will ensure that the patient is in a comfortable position, which may involve lying on their back, front, or side.
The acupuncturist will then begin the needle insertion process. The needles used in acupuncture are very thin and typically cause minimal discomfort.
Some patients may feel a slight pinching or tingling sensation as the needles are inserted, but this should not be painful.
Position with Eyes Closed
It is recommended that patients close their eyes during the treatment to help them relax and focus on the sensations they are experiencing.
This can also help to minimize distractions and allow the mind to enter a meditative state.
Once the needles are in place, the patient will be asked to relax and rest for a period of time, usually between 20 and 40 minutes.
Many patients find this part of the treatment to be deeply relaxing and may even fall asleep.
During the acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist will insert thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body.
These points are believed to correspond to specific energy channels, or meridians, in the body. By targeting these points, acupuncture aims to restore natural balance to the body’s energy flow, known as qi (pronounced “chee”).
After the allotted time has passed, the acupuncturist will remove the needles. Patients may feel a slight sensation as each needle is removed, but this should not be painful.
The acupuncturist may provide some post-treatment instructions, such as avoiding strenuous exercise or alcohol consumption for a period of time.
Depending on the patient’s condition, they may need to return for several additional treatment sessions in order to achieve optimal results.
Other Considerations for Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture is a holistic treatment approach that can provide numerous benefits beyond the relief of back pain.
Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when considering acupuncture treatment:
Acupuncture treatments are highly individualized, and the acupuncturist will tailor the treatment plan to meet the specific needs of each patient.
This may involve targeting specific acupuncture points based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and overall health status.
Safety and Side EffectsAcupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a licensed and trained acupuncturist.
However, some patients may experience minor side effects, such as bruising or soreness at the needle insertion site. Serious side effects, such as infection or organ damage, are rare.
Acupuncture can be used in combination with other therapies, such as massage, herbal medicine, or cupping.
These additional therapies can help to enhance the overall effectiveness of the acupuncture treatment and provide a more comprehensive approach to healing.
Emotional and Mental Health
Acupuncture can also be beneficial for emotional and mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
By targeting specific acupuncture points, acupuncturists can help to regulate the body’s stress response and promote a state of relaxation and calmness.
Once the initial course of acupuncture treatment is complete, patients may benefit from ongoing maintenance care to help manage their symptoms and maintain their overall health and well-being.
This may involve regular acupuncture treatments, as well as lifestyle modifications such as stress reduction techniques, exercise, and healthy eating habits.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for back pain treatment, supported by scientific evidence.
It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, promoting the natural balance and normal flow of energy. Patients should expect to lie down in a comfortable position, relax while the needles are inserted, and experience a deep sense of relaxation.
Acupuncture is an individualized treatment that can be combined with other therapies, providing benefits beyond pain relief, including emotional and mental health.
Patients may need several sessions of acupuncture, and ongoing maintenance care may be necessary to manage symptoms and maintain overall health and well-being.
If you are suffering from back pain, chronic or otherwise, contact Zing True Health Clinic today to book a session of acupuncture in our Kildare clinic or our new Athlone clinic.